This February is LGBT History Month, which is a month long celebration of LGBTQ history, culture and identity.
Its overarching aim is to promote equality and diversity. A core part of this is increasing the visibility of LGBTQ people.
I want to write about three LGBTQ women who, with their activism, are currently shaping history in the UK and beyond.
The first is my friend Jayne Ozanne. Jayne sits on the Church of England’s General Synod, is a member of the Government’s LGBT Advisory Panel and heads the Ozanne Foundation, of which I’m a trustee.
As a gay evangelical Christian, Jayne has been creating change, not just for LGBTQ Christians within the Church of England, but for all denominations and faiths and multiple human rights strands.
In her memoir Just Love, Jayne describes her own struggles with so-called “conversion therapy”, where spiritual, psychological and even sometimes physical interventions are used within a faith context to try and change an individual’s sexual orientation.
The Government committed to ending “conversion therapy” in their July 2018 LGBT Action Plan and this is an important objective which Jayne is pushing forwards.
Another woman who inspires me is Phyll Opoku-Gyimah. Phyll co-founded UK Black Pride in 2006. UK Black Pride is one of the most important and enjoyable Pride festivals in the UK. A queer black woman, Phyll has consistently championed LGBTQ voices which are otherwise not heard.
I recall Phyll speaking powerfully at a Stonewall event a few years ago, where she highlighted how even in places where you would expect Black, Asian and minority ethnic LGBTQ people to be welcomed, there could be shocking levels of racism.
Phyll currently heads the Kaleidoscope Trust, which campaigns for the rights of LGBTQ people in countries where there is a legacy of anti-LGBTQ legislation, in the Commonwealth and by supporting and empowering grass roots activists.
Thirdly, the trans author and activist Juno Roche, who like me is also HIV positive, has been campaigning for HIV positive people, trans people and the LGBTQ community more broadly since the 1990s.
Juno was diagnosed with HIV over 25 years ago, before the introduction of effective HIV treatments. She told me a few years ago how, as she fought for the rights of HIV positive people, those around her expected her to die soon.
She is a patron of CliniQ, a sexual health and wellbeing service aimed at trans people. Trans women living with HIV have to deal with multiple forms of stigma, including from health professionals.
Juno’s activism was motivated by the raw need to survive, an authenticity which is reflected in her books Queer Sex and Trans Power.
All three of these women have overcome barriers and stereotypes, around faith, sexuality, racism and transphobia. LGBT History Month is about celebrating their achievements, but also about acknowledging that for many LGBTQ people in the UK we are far from having achieved full equality.
About the author
Philip Baldwin is a human rights activist.
He was diagnosed with HIV in 2010, at the age of 24. Philip is healthy, happy and successful. Christianity is an important part of his life. He attends St John’s in Waterloo and is a Church of England altar servant. For many years Philip defined himself as an atheist or an agnostic. He began to reappraise the role Christianity could have in his life at the end of 2013. There are four main strands to Philip’s activism: HIV awareness; Hep C; youth homelessness; and faith for LGBT people.
From 2009 to 2015 Philip worked in financial services in London and New York. His career in the City followed on from an undergraduate degree in Modern History from Oriel College, Oxford, an M.Phil in History of Art and Architecture from Peterhouse College, Cambridge and a law conversion in London. Philip’s activism, charitable work and faith are now the main focus of his life.
Charities Philip supports and campaigns for include Stonewall, the Albert Kennedy Trust, the Terrence Higgins Trust, Positively UK and the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group. Philip is a Stonewall Role Model. Philip has a column in Gay Times. He has a gay rights and HIV awareness blog on the Huffington Post. He has contributed a chapter to a book on faith called The Power of My Faith. He is currently finalising a semi-autobiographical book on stigma entitled Positive Damage. Everyone has the right to live with dignity, regardless of sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, disability, age or creed.
To follow Philip’s journey on instagram please head to www.instagram.com/philipcbaldwin